PUEBLO, Colo. – Ryan Dirteater has already returned to Las Vegas since winning the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals last November, but six months later and the reality of accomplishing one of his childhood goals still gives him goosebumps.
“It is an unbelievable feeling, really,” Dirteater said. “It is a great feeling after you win the PBR World Finals. It is huge. It is something you dream about since you were a little kid. I put Dirteater in the history books of the PBR. It is something I had been working for my entire career as a professional bull rider. To be one of the best bull riders in the world and now I have done that.
“The only thing better than that is to win the world title.”
Dirteater heads into this weekend’s Last Cowboy Standing event ranked 20th in the world standings. The 28-year-old is hoping to turn around what has admittedly been a disappointing season following one that was the best of his career.
The Hulbert, Oklahoma, cowboy is riding at a career-worst rate of 28.57 percent through 14 events after riding a career-high 33 bulls in 2016 thanks to a personal-best 44.59.
His 2017 championship aspirations certainly have taken a step back thus far, but a victory at Last Cowboy Standing can swing the pendulum back into his favor heading into the Built Ford Tough Series summer break.
“There have been some missed opportunities this year,” Dirteater said. “(I) need to step my game up. I need to stay more focused. I need to stay focused and keep working hard.”
Not many people pegged Dirteater to win the World Finals event average last year before Dirteater (6-for-6) became only the fourth rider in PBR history to cover all of his bulls in Las Vegas.
Dirteater plans on getting on a few practice bulls this week in preparation for the potential grind of attempting four bulls in a short time frame Saturday night if he advances past Round 1 Friday.
Last Cowboy Standing is a minimum of two rounds and a maximum of five. At least 25 riders will advance to Round 2, with any draw spots being filled by the current world standings heading into Last Cowboy Standing if there are less than 25 rides in Round 1.
If all riders buck off in Rounds 2, 3 or 4, then all riders that attempted a bull advance to the next round.
If there is more than one ride in the final round (Round 5), then the Last Cowboy Standing will be the rider with the highest-ride score in Round 5. If there are no rides in Round 5, then the Last Cowboy Standing will be the rider with the most round points that had competed in Round 5.
The event winner of the third PBR Major of the season will earn a minimum of $100,000 and 625 points toward the world standings.
Each round winner earns 125 points toward the world standings, as well.
Dirteater expects his week of training alongside three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco, 2016 Rookie of the Year Jess Lockwood, Rubens Barbosa and Keyshawn Whitehorse at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, on April 24-29 to also pay dividends.
“I am always wanting to learn stuff about the gym and mental training,” he said. “I am always looking for stuff to better my bull riding and hopefully this is something that can hopefully take me to that next level. I am going to use some of that and put it to my daily training. I am excited.”
The six riders’ journeys at IMG Academy will be recapped in further detail on the PBR’s social media and digital channels later this summer.
First, though, Dirteater hopes to get back on the winning path this coming weekend.
Dirteater is a career 41.3-percent bull rider in Sin City, but maybe he can strike it big once again in Las Vegas.
“I haven’t (won Last Cowboy) yet,” he concluded. “That would just be something to put on a list with all the other achievements. I am ready to go back to the desert. I went to the National Finals Rodeo (last year) and watched it with some of my buddies. I am looking forward to going back.
“Last time I was there I won a lot of money ($317,916.67) and I am expecting that again. I like competing in Vegas.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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